Wine Producing Regions of Spain
Where to find the great wine producing regions of Spain
In the most north-western part of Spain lies Galicia with its DO regions of , Monterrey Rías Baixas, Ribeira Sacra , Ribeiro and Valdeorras . It produces some very fine quaffable wines both Red and White, specially when they accompany a plate of the freshest sea food straight out the nutrient rich estuaries along this beautifull coastline. I would highly recommend a visit to O,Grove for the Sea food Feria ( Festa de Marisco) in October ( around the 6th to the 15th ) however make sure you book early as they receive visitors from all over Spain and indeed the world for this coveted Feria where you can try every kind of fresh local seafood produce at rock at bottom prices.
The White wines here are made mostly from the Albariño grape ( small and sweet) many of which are cold-fermented to maintain freshness. Other grape varieties used for the production of the Whites are. Loureira, treixadura, Caiño Blanco, Torrontés, Godello. Grapes varieties used for the Reds are Caíño Tinto, Sousón, Mencía, Espadeira, . Loureira tinta, Brancellao.
Burgens Rias Baixas Albariño 2005: ( White ) Pale golden Straw, rich, alive, flowery, peach and green melon.
Martin Codax; From the Martins Codax bodegas. ( White ) Has an attractive straw-greenish yellow colour, with ripe lemon nuances. Bright and slightly sparkling. Aroma: Stands out for its special intensity and elegance, its aroma reminiscent of damp, dewy fresh herbs with a perfume of semi-ripe apples. Palate: A fine sparkling sensation on the palate, with a complexity of tastes denoting the freshness of vegetation in the valley and the essence of the variety. Persistent, full-bodied and tasty.
Pazo de Seoane Albariño 2005/06 : ( white ) Fresh, acidic and a full tropical fruit flavour with delicacy and finesse on the palate. Long on the finish, this wine is ideally suitable with fish stews or paella.
Moving on across, to the south east of the Rias Baixes is the DO area of Rueda. Had a reputation of producing sherry-like wines although it is now the home of some very fine red and whites, this time made from the Verdejo grape.
Hermanos Lurton. ( Red ) This Tempranillo astonishes by its garnet-red colour, unusual for a Spanish wine. It is very spicy on the nose with leather and toasted aromas. It is very fresh and velvety in the mouth bringing pleasant hints of red fruit and vanilla.
Belondrade y Lurton 2005: ( White Crianza ) Intense and brilliant colour, aromas of mature fruit and wood with a hint of exotic overtones ( mature mango and Pineapple ) along with a smoked touch and milk. The taste is long , intense, elegant and persistent.
Coming further across is Ribera del Duero, a region of vineyards situated around the river Duero which, as it flows west through Portugal, becomes the Douro where the famous Port is produced. Although Rioja is undesputely the best known Spanish wine the Ribera del Dueor actually is home to Spains most expensive wine , produced by Vega Sicilia and arguably one of the finest wines in the world. A bottle of Vega Sicilia Unico 1994 will set you back around 225.00 Euros. On a continuing poll at Espavino.com the top two voted wines are both from this region and are the Vega Sicilia Unico 1970 and close in 2nd place is the Pingus 1995. Most of the wines here are based on a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon and the indigenous Tempranillo grapes.
Vega Sicilia (Unico ) 1994: Very deep almost black in fact, overtones of overripe berries, low acidity and layer upon layer of fruit, the density is quite unbelievable. If you decide to really splash out one day I would highly recommend you go for a Vega Sicilia…. An unforgatebbale experience.
Condado de Haza: ( Red) For a more inexpensive wine : Full and toasty hint of roasted fruit, meat with a robust bouquet. Blackberry and plum flavours are also there.
Next on our Northern trip lies Navarra, home to the DO wine regions of Navarra, Rioja and Cava. Home excellent fine red Spanish wines for generations. Rioja region is dicited into three regions , Rioja Alta , Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. It is from the the Rioja Alta estates where the best wine is produced. Tempranillo is th main grape variety used here along with Garnacha Tinto to a lesser degree. The styles here are split up into different categories depending on the ageing process ( in American oak ) and are:
CRIANZA WINES – minimum of two years ageing before sale; red
RESERVA WINES at least two years (of which one must be in oak barrels); red
GRAN RESERVA at least two years in oak and three in the bottle).
gran reserva guarantees five years’ ageing (of which six months must be in oak).
Navarra I guess will always be in the shadows of its famous neighbour Rioja, and I imagine many yarn has been spawned and many a village been divided over which one produces the best. Me thinks the majority vote is for Rioja for now although Navarra does produce some I think nice Rose’s such as Atazuri made 100% with the Garnacha Grape.
Recommended: There are so many fine wines from this this region so heres a few well worth trying:
Marques de Murrieta, Marqués de Riscal, Muga, Marqués de Cáceres, Campo de Viejo, Faustino, Darien, Berbarana, Torre Muda, Izadi, Pagos Viejos and Lanzaga. That should keep you occupied if not pleasantly inebriated for a few weeks.
Moving east to the Mediterranean shores there a number of DO regions which include Priorato , Somontano, Penedès. The latter is home of the Miguel Torres Bodegas which produces a really fine selection of wine, including Reds and sparkling Cavas from a number of indigenous and international grapes.
Are from the Torres Bodegas and are all reasonable priced and excellent quality.
Gran Sangre de Toro ( Red) . The best Garnacha, Cariñena and Syrah grapes are used to produce Gran Sangre de Toro. All the exuberant aroma traditionally found in an intense, ripe red wine, with a sensual background of fine spices in good balance with perfumed notes reminiscent of blackberries. Full, long finish on the palate
Reserva Real: Intense deep mahogany red colour. On the nose the wine is intense, complex and very fruity (blackberry and raspberry jams). There are clear signs of oak in a series of toasted aromas (toasted almonds and toasted bread) and a slight hint of smoke over a spicy background of cloves and bay leaf.
Gran Caronas: The rich, sensual aroma is typical of the grape varieties recalling small red and black berries (cherries and blackcurrants), green coffee beans and liquorice.
The main wine producing regions in central Spain include La Mancha, Valdepeñas, Jumilla, Almansa, Valencia, Mentrida, Mondejar, Manchuelo y Pagos. The dominating region here though is La Mancha, home to Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho Panza, is one of the oldest wine producing regions in Spain. It is becoming a popular region exporting wine with a 10% increase in sales over the last decade. The main grape varities used here are Airen and Tempranillo ( Often called Cencibel in that area ) and Garnacha Tinta with bleedings using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the Syrah variety being ever more widely used.
Valdepeñas is mostly a red wine producing region, not to my mind in the league of Rioja or Ribero del Duero however there a couple of bodegas ageing their wines in oak that are very pleasant indeed, one being Viña Albali Gran Reserva, a very inexpensive Red wine available throughout Spain in Supermarkets and stores offering really good quality at around 24 Euros a bottle.
Further to the east are the DOs of Almansa, Valencia, Alicante, Jumilla, Yecla and Utiel-Requena. There are some good value wines to be found here such as Castaño Dulce, Castaño Monestrell, Detras de la Casa, Castaño Syrah.
Viña Albali Gran Reserva: Red 100% 50 yrs old Tempranillo aged 24 months in new American oak. Fresh and juicy, with layers of quality red fruits well balanced by the tannins of the oak, aromas of vanilla, caramel and nutmeg.
An area close to my heart alter residing in this area for so mnay years and soaked up the atmosphere of Jerez on many occasions. The wines from this region come from Jerez, Montilla-Morilles, Condado de Huelva and Malaga. Jerez is of course is the main producer where the finest Sherry in the world is produced. The Palomino and Pedro Ximénez are the main grape varitues used here with a touch of Moscatel. The grapes are harvested and fermented in the normal way, but the wines are then left in contact with air for a prolonged period of time. Some will simply oxidise, whereas some develop a coating of flor, a thick layer of yeast, on the surface. This yeast imparts a distinctive flavour.
The wines are produced using the solera system, a tier of barrels containing wine of
differing ages, oldest at the bottom and youngest at the top. The wine in the lowest barrel is drawn off and bottled, and each barrel is topped up with wine from the one above. This maintains a steady stream of wine of similar character year after year, and explains why sherry is almost never vintage dated.
Although basically the wines come either dry, semi Sherries come in a number of styles. These can broadly be divided into dry, medium or sweet they are classifies in the following manner:
– this style of Jerez, produced at Sanlúcar de Barrameda, is very appreciated for its elegance and finesse. Thanks to the influence of the moist air streams coming from the Atlantic ocean, Manzanilla is dry, characterized by a pleasing salty hint and a taste that could be defined as “sea”. Manzanilla, which belongs to the family of fino, depends on the development of the so called flor, the layer of yeast which forms on the surface of the wine inside the cask. Because of its extreme fragility, many producers bottle the wine only upon order. Manzanilla should be served chilled and an opened bottle can be rarely kept for more than two days
- Fino –
with refined and complex aromas, fino has a pale colour, strong and dry taste, it is considered the most typical style of Jerez. Even this style depends on the development of flor and it is more robust and strong than Manzanilla. An opened bottle should be consumed within two or three days
- Amontillado –
it is a Jerez aged in cask, after having been drawn off from the solera, it is fortified and then kept in a cask where it will be allowed to age without the protection of the flor. In this way the wine will increase its oxidation and its color will get darker, while exalting toasted and nutty aromas. Amontillados have a demi-sec taste because of the adding of a small percentage of Pedro Ximénez and few producers make this wine in the dry style
- Palo Cortado –
a pretty rare and sought Jerez style, for its qualities it is often considered as a in-between wine from fino and oloroso. It is a particular style of dry Amontillado which after having aged for a long time, it develops the typical qualities of oloroso, that is higher structure, concentrated and creamy. Palo Cortado reminds aromas of Amontillado, whereas the taste reminds an oloroso
– style of Jerez produced without the development of the flor and therefore strongly exposed to the effects of oxidation which gives a very dark color, toasted and dried fruit aromas. Olorosos have a higher alcohol percentage than finos, typically 18-20%, full body and higher concentration. The trend is a production of sweet or demi-sec Olorosos whereas dry styles are considered a rarity. Sweetness in Olorosos is obtained by adding variable quantities of Pedro Ximénez
- Cream –
in the beginning this style of Jerez was created for the English market and they are characterized by a higher sweetness than Olorosos. Sweetness in Creams is obtained by adding high quantities of Pedro Ximénez, variable from producer to producer. Creams are pretty dense with aromas of chocolate, licorice, jams and dried fruit
- Pedro Ximénez –
this style of Jerez is exclusively produced with Pedro Ximénez grape, as opposed to the other styles where Palomino is the predominant grape. Pedro Ximénez styles are very dense, syrupy and sweet, robust structure and complex aromas of dried fruit. Pedro Ximénez is generally used for sweetening other Oloroso styles, however they are very appreciated and sold as a style of their own, in particular for being paired to desserts
If you ever do visit Jerez I would highly recommend you take one of the tours available at most of the big name bodegas such as Tio Pepe ( Gonzalez Byass ) or Osbourne. I have toured the bodegas on various occasions, each visit as interesting as the first, the overwhelming sweet smell or fermenting Sherry is one never to be forgotten.
To end our trip accorss the regons of Spain one should mention Montilla-Moriles and Málaga, which lie east of Jerez, both produce noteable wines very much in the style of Sherry and some very sweet ones. Malaga is a sweet fortified wine originating in the Spanish city of Málaga made from Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes. The center of Malaga production is Sierra de Almijara, along with Antequera, Archidona, San Pedro Alcantara, Velez Malaga and Competa.
Some similar wines, as well as some dry whites, originate from Condado de Huelva, to the west of Jerez.
Tio Pepe – Fino. From the Gonzalez Byass Bodega, Pale Gold in colour from the Palomino grape, Crisp, fresh, clean, very dry and fragrant. Accompanies any type of aperitif (olives, cheese, nuts, etc.) and goes especially well with shellfish or seafood.
Pale Cream Another Gonzalez Byass Sherry, Pale gold in colour, well balanced, mild and slightly sweet. Accompanies any type of nuts and pates. Good for drinking at any time of the day.
Nectar Cream A fine sweet Wine from the Byass bodegas Golden dark in colour, Full bodied with a long finish. It is the perfect for drinking an any time of the day.
Fino Qunto: A real classic from the Osbourne bodegas. One of the most traditional Spanish finos. Aged under the flor in American oak butts using the traditional system of soleras and criaderas. Average age: 4 to 5 years.